2016: the year of the
cheap embedded Linux system
This is more of a roundup than a product review.
Digikey now stocks Adafruit, Sparkfun and other "hobbyist" items.
There are more kickstarters than ever before.
Innovation is everywhere!
The Raspberry Pi is the clear winner with several formats, price points, support and acceptance
- $5 Raspberry Pi Zero (available OTC at MicroCenter)
- 1Ghz Single-core CPU
- 512MB RAM
- Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports
- HAT-compatible 40-pin header
- Composite video and reset headers
- Micro USB power
- CSI camera connector (v1.2 only)
- [update: $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W
with IEEE 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Bluetooth 4.1]
- $35 Raspberry Pi 3:
- 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU
- 802.11n Wireless LAN
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
- Raspberry Pi
compute module 3 and
Compute Module 3 Lite:
aimed at business and industrial users
- standard DDR2 SODIMM form factor
- 1.2GHz BCM2837 quad-core CPU
- 1GB RAM
- 4Gbyte eMMC Flash
NEC Display Solutions announces collaboration with Raspberry Pi
October 2016: NEC to expand its market opportunity in intelligent displays,
powered by the Raspberry Pi 3 compute module
Previous Linux TVs (NOT Raspberry Pi)
- The Raspberry Pi is supported by online blogs and
The Magpi magazine
- Raspberry Pi followups:
Bill Degnan (vintagecomputer.net):
One thing to add, the Raspberry Pi zero is very reliable,
more so than the bare CHIP in a GUI mode (startx).
But the CHIP can't be beat as the simh brain
for a vintage serial terminal because it has built-in wifi.
They just use more power.
I have a few pages about using the RPi and CHIP with simH
There are plenty of Raspberry Pi clones but they are nowhere as well supported:
other embedded Linux systems that are very popular and successful:
The $9 Next Thing CHIP module
$69 Pocket Chip
are very popular in the retro-gaming arena
- 1 GHz ARM core runs Linux from 4 GB built-in flash
- built in WiFi, Bluetooth, graphics
The BeagleBone Black
and BeagleBone Green
are embraced by the BSD community.
- Texas Instruments AM3358 Sitara Processor
- 1-GHz ARM Cortex-A8 32-Bit RISC Processor
- NEON SIMD Coprocessor
- 32KB of L1 Instruction and 32KB of Data Cache
- 2: Programmable Real-Time Unit Subsystem and Industrial Communication Subsystem (PRU-ICSS)
32-Bit Load/Store RISC Processor Capable of Running at 200 MHz
- 512MB DDR3 RAM
- 4GB 8-bit eMMC on-board flash storage
- the BeagleBone Black has 10/100 Ethernet or onboard 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz WiFi and Bluetooth
The Intel Edison Compute Module
is heavily promoted at IoT Hack-a-thons.
It is usually paired with a breakout board for Arduino shields.
- the main SoC is a 22 nm Intel Atom "Tangier" (Z34XX)
that includes two Atom Silvermont cores running at 500 MHz
and one Intel Quark core at 100 MHz (for executing RTOS ViperOS)
(was initially dual-core Intel Quark x86 CPU at 400 MHz)
- 1 GB LPDDR, 4 GB EMMC
- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 4 USB controllers
- runs Yocto Linux
The Intel Galileo is not dead yet
but is nowhere as well promoted.
Galileo G2 datasheet
[June 2017 UPDATE:
Intel Quietly Discontinues Galileo, Joule, and Edison Development Boards]
- 400 MHz Single core Intel Quark processor
- 256 MB DDR3 RAM, 8 MB NOR flash
- 10/100 Ethernet (with optional PoE power extractor)
- Full-sized mPCIe (mini-PCI Express) slot
- Micro-SD slot
- TTL UART 6-pin header
- USB 2.0 Host port
- USB 2.0 Client port
- Arduino Uno R3 shield connector
- runs Yocto Linux
The $3.00 gumstick-sized
ESP8266 WiFi Module
and the newer
ESP32 Wi-Fi & dual-mode Bluetooth module
were intended to be just a
TOE (TCP offload engine)
but the ARM core is programmable enough to work stand-alone.
The main variation in breakout boards is the number of I/O pins.
Learn more at
UPDATE: here's an open source competitor to the ESP:
A MIPS GNU/Linux box for Arduino and Internet of Everything.
Combining the Linux OS with IoE HW + certified WiFi 802.11n connectivity
and use OpenWRT and Peer-to-Peer (AllJoyn software framework) to customize your own project.
The product hopes to make an open source WiFi home automation seamless and easy to understand for all levels of technology users.
other educational microcontrollers
- BBC micro:bit
- supplied to every UK Year 7 student (age 11)
- ARM Cortex M0 core
- compass, accelerometer
- 5 x 5 LED array
The Arduino eco-system is no longer just for hobbyists.
There are zillions of Ardiuno "shields": I/O boards with the
de-facto standard pinout used by many non-Arduino microsystems.
The 8-bit Atmel AVR chip is still the main core but many are other chips too
Diligent's chipKIT based on Microchip's PIC32 (32 bit MIPS core)
The Arduino User Community, resources and code base is H-U-G-E !
(137 W 14th St) holds affordable workshops
- Microchip/Atmel local reps & engineers hosted a workshop
Lattice ice40 iCEstick Evaluation Kit
- iCE40HX-1k FPGA datasheet (pdf)
- 1,280 Logic Cells (LUT + Flip-Flop)
- 16 RAM4K Memory Blocks
- 64K RAM4K RAM bits
- 1 Phase-Locked Loops (PLLs)
- 95 Maximum Programmable I/O Pins
- USB for power, programming
- Vishay TFDU4101 IrDA transceiver
- Five user LEDs
- Discera 12 Mhz MEMS oscillator
- Micron 32 Mbit N25Q32 SPI flash
- 16 LVCMOS/LVTTL (3.3 V) digital I/O connections on 0.1" through-hole connections
- open source tools & design files:
new parallel architectures
The Parallella Board
- 18-core credit card sized computer
- 16-core Epiphany RISC SOC
- Zynq SOC (FPGA + ARM A9)
- Gigabit Ethernet
- 1GB SDRAM
- Micro-SD storage
- Up to 48 GPIO pins
- Open source design files
- Runs Linux
network flow processors by
Parallax 8 core Propeller is open source,
popular for robotics and the
Open-source Hackable Electronic Badge
And a time of silly names for expansion boards
DISCLAIMER: these are systems that I have, have encountered or are related to them.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of production embedded systems
by companies big and small.
Journals such as Circuit Cellar cover them
as articles or advertisers.